Search This Blog

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Slash and Burn. Colin Cotterill. Soho Crime (2011)

A wonderfully engaging and enjoyable crime story set in Laos in the late 1970's. Dr. Siri is the national coroner in Laos, a position he never wanted and hopes to finally retire from when he becomes involved in a search for a American helicopter pilot who was MIA in the Vietnam war. Evidence had surface that he was alive and a delegation from the US government was arriving to investigate.  Dr Siri and his friends are included on the Lao team that travels with the Americans as they go to the reported crash site. When they arrive events spiral out of control as the hidden agendas start to emerge and the danger to everyone starts to become much clearer. The reveals are staged with great skill and sharp wit, as the body count rises the true scope of the problem is revealed. The secret at the heart of the story is substantial and brilliantly credible and unexpected, the conclusion is very satisfying.
Colin Cotterill hides the superb plot mechanics behind the wholly engaging cast and the astonishing context. Dr Siri is a misfit in the communist republic if post war Laos, a chronic disbeliever in any ideology he is constantly leaning against the boundaries of possible behavior to see what what margin of freedom he can find. He is an astute investigator as he is willing to see what is in front of him and think about why it happened. The rest of the cast are given the room to come forward and engage the reader as they cope with the circumstances that embroil them.
A major character in its own right is Laos itself in its ramshackle absurdity as the mix of communist political leadership tries to deal with the stubborn history of the country. Living in this context is to be an actor in a very absurd black comedy where proclamations are intended to change reality by denying it. Everyone is caught is the gaps between the actual state of living and the propaganda that floats above it like a dust cloud .
Colon Cotterall takes a very lighthearted approach to this context, mining the absurdity for generous humour and sharp barbs about the problems it creates. What makes it work is that he also takes it very seriously as the impact on his cast is the structure of their daily lives. They have to manage and they choose to relish where possible the absurdity and keep the dangers to a minimum. This gives the book a great weight that allows the plot to be gripping and sharp.
This is a great crime story with a  substantial story that is carefully constructed and a cast that inhabit their extraordinary context with vitality and force. 

No comments:

Post a Comment